REVIEW OF ‘SMART GRID FOR SCHOOLS’
In December of 2013, Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) funded the Illinois State University’s program to develop Smart Grid for Schools, a K-12 curriculum to further understanding of the smart electricity grid, support increased energy literacy, and incorporate STEM objectives.
The program was funded to further ISEIF’s mission of engaging Illinois residents in the benefits of the smart grid and increase energy literacy. As the Smart Grid for Schools curriculum enters its second year, ISEIF has published a review of the program in its report titled Smart Grid for Schools: To Reach Parents, Teach Children. The purpose of the report is to share what the foundation has learned about energy literacy programs that target youth both as the intended primary audience and as an avenue to reach parents.
The curriculum has been received positively and the university has trained 208 teachers to date, reaching thousands of children, many of whom are in low-income neighborhoods where energy savings can equal substantial cost savings. Among the benefits of the curriculum, teachers interviewed in the report state the following observations:
- Experienced teachers have remarked that this curriculum, the accompanying incentivized teacher training, and mobile displays are among the best continuing education opportunities in which they’ve taken part
- Students find the interactive displays fun and engaging. They’re making observations connecting energy use to money, the line of thinking that will be useful when they’re older and making energy related decisions
- A curriculum for children is a way to reach their parents, but complete traceability is a challenge
The centerpiece of the curriculum is a set of mobile displays in which students can plug in appliances and view usage and pricing data, stage an outage on a table-top power grid and view how the smart grid detects it, and follow electricity from generation to distribution. This hands-on experience differentiates it as an energy literacy curriculum, and is what makes it fun and appealing to children. Students instantly play the role of energy consumer when they interact with the displays and make decisions about when to use energy and how much it will cost. In its second year of the project, the Illinois State University plans to improve the displays with touchscreens. The displays may also become smaller to accommodate easy transport to schools.